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Archive for May, 2011

The Strain (2009) Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

With an opening that is a huge nod to Dracula’s arrival in Whitby from Bram Stoker’s seminal vampire novel, The Strain is the first novel of a vampire trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Concentrating on a small groups attempts to stop the spread of the infection of vampires that are presented as parasitic creatures. The book is very cinematic in its structure giving rise to speculation that del Toro intends to adapt it into a movie. I for one would be very happy to see this happen.

Already Dead (2005) Charlie Huston

Written in the style of a pulp detective novel Already Dead is the first of the Joe Pitt Casebook series of novels. The Manhattan underworld is run by vampire clans, independent of the clans Joe Pitt is a Vampire and a detective, he must find a missing rich girl and get to the bottom of a zombie epidemic that is sweeping through the city whilst facing the age old vampire problem, the need for blood. At a risk of turning him into a specialist vampire movie director I would go for David Slade in the directors chair and James McAvoy to star as Pitt.

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter (1993 – ongoing) Laurell K. Hamilton

Making her first appearance in Guilty Pleasures in 1993 Anita Blake has appeared in 20 novels to date. A necromancer who works as a professional re-animating of the dead, a licensed vampire hunter/executioner and a consultant for the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team (RPIT, pronounced Rip-it) her life revolves around werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. To add to this she becomes involved in a love triangle with a werewolf and the cities “master vampire”. Casting could go a few ways on this one; a character with serious emotional issues, frequently flippant and sarcastic and always stubborn Lena Headey or Rhona Mitra would be perfect. Sticking closer to the character in the book (Anita’s mother was Mexican) Michelle Rodriguez could also work.

Night Huntress Series (2007 – ongoing) Jeaniene Frost

The Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost consists of five novels to date (#6 is due out later this year). Catherine “Cat” Crawfield is half human, half vampire, she was conceived when her mother was raped by a vampire. Having the idea that all vampires are evil drummed into her by her over protective mother, Cat is a on a single minded quest to kill every vampire she comes across. Then she meets Bones who forces her to question everything she thinks she knows. Its all a little too Buffy, but far worse things have made it onto film.

Glittering Savages (1995) Mark Burnell

There is something about the mysterious beautiful new tenant in Robert Stark’s apartment block but is her interest in him purely romantic or something more sinister? A modern day take of the gothic horror/romance that is perfectly constructed with a great premise and a devastating payoff. Mark Burnell was already flirted with Hollywood, it was announced back in 2005 that he had been hired to write a screenplay based on his 1999 novel The Rhythm Section, then in 2009 the people behind the James Bond movies purchased the rights to his as yet unpublished novel Remote Control; neither project has seen the light of day yet.

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1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

I watched this movie a lot when I was a kid; like the “Trans Am” that it features the movie went through a period in the 90’s of being a bit of a joke. As the 70’s have become fashionable both the movie and the Trans Am have become cool again. Whatever your opinion on the matter there is no denying the movie is great fun and a reference point for car movies today. A must see for any fan of car movies.

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Movie Car Week:Day Six

1964 Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger (1964)

Having read the James Bond novels I know that Bond drives a Bentley but when someone mentions Bond and cars I always think of the DB5. After its appearance in Goldfinder it became Sean Connery’s regular car and was also driven by Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. This car is Bond!

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1974 Dodge Monaco: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Featured in several iconic chase scenes including the epic finale what can you say about the former police car from The Blues Brothers? Don’t ask me, ask Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd):

“It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what? ”

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1998 Audi S8, 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL, BMW M5 E34: 1991 Ronin (1998)

The big set piece at the centre of Ronin involves as car chase where the protagonists driving a 1998 Audi S8 and a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL ambushes a convoy to steal the movies MacGuffin. There is also a great chase through the streets of Paris involving a BMW M5 and a more mundane Peugeot. The most notable thing about the chases in the movie is the sense of authenticity, this was achieved by using real cars with stunt drives and not relying on special effects. This is further enhanced by the minimal use of music in the scenes, instead using authentic engine noises.

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1973 Ford Falcon: Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 (1981)

Appearing in the first two Mad Max movies the car is a 1973 Ford Falcon Coupe XB GT V8. As the model was exclusively sold in Australia it is the perfect choice for the film and is essential to the film even though it is only really used in the second half of the first film and the first half of the second film. Unlike big budget films for the first movie they only made one black interceptor that was used for all filming including stunts. This car was the real deal (except the supercharger was a fake!), when it came time to make the second film they took the same car and modified it further.

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1955 Chevrolet One-Fifty & 1970 Pontiac GTO: Two Lane Blacktop (1971)

The little ’55 Chevy is not only the star of this film but was later used in American Graffiti. The car is designed for racing. It is stripped out and basic. The bonnet (sorry hood it is after all and American readers) is fibreglass as are the doors and boot (trunk) lid. The side windows are Plexiglas that slides back to front instead of rolling up and down. The car is painted primer grey this is in stark contrast to the 1970 Pontiac GTO whose driver describes his car with the words “Performance and image, that’s what it’s all about” the Chevy doesn’t care about image, it is all about performance. Its driver says about the GTO “there’s lots o’ cars on the road like yours, they all get to lookin’ the same. They perform about the same, too….” Take your pick, they are both seriously cool cars.

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With three movies featuring classic muscle cars (Drive Angry – Faster – Fast Five) coming out this year I thought I thought I would take a look at the cars from a few classic car movies.

1968 Austin Mini Cooper S mk1: The Italian Job (1969)

The coolest cars in history? Probably! That is why in a film containing an Aston Martin DB4, a couple of E-Type jaguars and a Lamborghini Miura I am talking about Mini’s. Not one but a trio of 1968 Austin Mini Cooper S mk1’s. The little cars are chased through the streets of Turin (always in red, white and blue sequence) with boots full of stolen gold. The film would just not have been the same without them and Mini wouldn’t be the same without the film. Just imagine if they had used Fiat 500’s as was suggested at the time. Don’t be fooled by the 2003 remake featuring modern BMW incarnation of the Mini.

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Having reviewed over a hundred movies last year I have taken a step back writing reviews this year to let my blog return to its more random origins. For various reasons once in a while I am compelled to write a review, in this case it was having a “screener” sent all the way from America! Being a low budget independent movie I’m not sure where you will get your hands on a copy (especially on this side of the Atlantic).

Shot in a documentary style using “found footage” in the vein of The Blair Witch Project (1999) Killer View (aka Snuffed) forgoes a linear structure and cuts between missing journalist Martin Monahan’s (Martin Moakler) interview with a sociopath serial killer, Ben (Noah Key) and the killers own footage of his handiwork.

The sound and some of the visuals are a little shaky as would expect from a low budget movie, this however can be overlooked as it does added to the realism of the “found footage” concept (anyone who has seen Paranormal Activity (2007) will remember the sound design was too good considering the supposed origins of the footage), it also helps that the movie isn’t let down by the acting with all the cast providing believable performances.

The interesting twist is that the killer videos his murders and sells the snuff movies to the local populous, and this is where the movie finds its place and its voice in the overcrowded horror genre. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the filmmakers but I took this whole concept as a comment on societies consumption of increasingly graphic horror movies, think a Peeping Tom (1960) for the 21st century.

Brian O’Connell Director of Killer View

Surprisingly there is virtually no onscreen violence with most of it taking place just off camera, this in itself is no bad thing in light of the overly graphic and tedious “torture porn” that has been prevalent in recent years. Interestingly the film works best as the perfectly played nervous and naive journalist interviews the more assured killer.

The film isn’t scary in the horror, make you jump sense and isn’t hugely shocking but it is surprisingly plausible in its concept and often difficult to watch as it turns its viewer into a voyeur. This made me more disturbed when I thought about it than while I was actually watching it. Comparisons with Henry: A Portrait of a Killer (1986) are inevitable, whilst I don’t think the movie is actually as good as Henry it is certainly a must see for fans of the genre.

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I went into see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with a certain amount of trepidation. I loved the first movie but found its sequels to be dull, tedious, overlong and pointless. My fears for this fourth instalment were raised when I discovered that it was in 3D; fortunately there was a 2D option, I took it.

Cap’n Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is seeking the mythical Fountain Of Youth, along the way he crosses paths with old flame Angelica (Penélope Cruz), her farther, the legendry pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and a Spanish fleet for good measure.

The film really is a mixed bag. Lets start with the problems, when you scrape away twists and turns, the plot is minimal at best and really doesn‘t make much sense. The cast is under utilised, particularly Penélope Cruz who is totally wasted. McShane’s Blackbeard is good but not great, he isn’t given the time or freedom to have fun with the part the way he did with Al Swearengen in the TV show Deadwood. And as with previous films in the series its way too long.

On the positive side, the film looks great. The special effects are scaled back from the CGI excess of the last two movies leaving making the big moments feel bigger. The best of these is a mermaid attack that is really well handled. This however takes us back to the problem of the movie, the mermaid characters are under developed, underused and on the periphery of the plot. On the surface the introduction of mermaids seems to be integral to the plot but in practice it looks like someone had an idea that they thought would be cool then contrived a plot point to justify their inclusion. The same could be said of the main mermaid, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and her relationship with missionary, Phillip (Sam Claflin); they keep popping up throughout the film but don’t really have much to do and drift out of the plot as if discarded by the writers. Were they intended as replacements for Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom? If they are, they are poor replacements, not through any fault of the actors, they do as much as they can with the underdeveloped characters.

At the end of the day this is Johnny Depp/Cap’n Jack Sparrow’s movie, and he is still an engaging and entertaining character, unfortunately he is being diluted by week movies, Disney really needs to make hard decision put the bottom line to one side and write him a great movie or shelve the character. It has been suggested that the movie could be the first of a second Pirates trilogy, handled well this could work, there is certainly more mileage in the Angelica character and her relationship with Cap‘n Jack, and anything that gives Penélope Cruz more screen time has to be a good thing! There is also a lot more that could be done with the mermaid’s.

A surprisingly good fun swashbuckling adventure that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. It is probably only worth two stars out of five but I will give it three.

★★★★★

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